For Sam Johnson, Vikings, it was plus-plus

Sam Johnson, head football coach of Siuslaw Vikings

Sam Johnson needed a job and Siuslaw High School needed a math teacher and a head football coach.

It added up to something too good to pass on for the 23-year-old former Vikings star wide receiver and defensive back.

"I saw the teaching opportunity open up here, and I kind of jumped at it," Johnson said Monday, prior to a weight-training session on campus.

He also took on the daunting task of rebuilding a proud program that had fallen on hard times.

"Pile it on!" Johnson said. "I don't feel pressure at all. For our family, it's been football since we were really young. I feel 23, maybe 16, in some aspects of life.

"But in football, I feel maybe 50. I feel I have enough experience, enough knowledge, that I'm not worried about that at all."

Johnson has hit the ground running by assembling a veteran staff in short order.

"We're bringing back four assistants from last year — Tom Shinn, Bob Teter, Dennis Davidson and someone who was my coach, Gerry Fleming, who is just an incredible guy," he said.

Johnson has more in mind, including someone very close to him.

"We'll bring in my dad, Andy Johnson," he said. "And there are a couple other ones I'm working on to bring in."


  • Monday, Aug. 19 — First practice
  • Friday, Aug. 30 — Jamboree, Hans Petersen Field, 5 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept.6 — at Elmira, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 13 — at Philomath, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 20 — Newport, 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 28 — vs. McLoughlin at Madras High School, 4 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 4 — Harrisburg, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — at Santiam Christian, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 — Pleasant Hill, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 25 — La Pine, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 1 — at Sutherlin, 7 p.m.

His dual mandate as teacher and coach requires lesson plans and lessons learned.

"My biggest thing is I want to bring in really good guys," Johnson said. "I thinks Xs and Os are secondary with the guys I'm bringing in, because they are first and foremost great family men."

It was something he discussed during the hiring process.

"State championships can come and go, but if I'm not building up really good young men to be great fathers and great husbands, then I don't want the job," Johnson said.

"That's our goal, all these boys, to build them up to young men, then the wins and losses take care of themselves."

Johnson plans to kickstart the program with a parents meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the high school mall.

"I'll give them a schedule of what we're doing this summer, tell ‘em what we're going to do," he said. "I'll introduce me and the staff. Kind of just a welcome home."

Johnson won't be trashing what former coach Chad Smith already had planned, including youth camps later in the summer.

"The kids camp, everything Chad had planned, we're going to just keep going," he said. "We want these kids to be able to do it."

Johnson is well aware of the coaching turmoil at Siuslaw that has produced three new head coaches in four years. He experienced it first hand as head junior varsity coach at Pleasant Hill.

"At Pleasant Hill, that senior class last year had four head coaches in four years, so I'm pretty used to it," he said. "It's tough to trust a new figure who comes in and says all the right things.

"So I can say all the right things to them, but until I prove it, I don't expect them to trust me."

Johnson does not want next year's juniors to have a fourth head coach as seniors.

"It's not the trend I'm used to, or the boys I grew up with were used to," he said. "We had two coaches in 50 years, Lenny Lutero and Tim Dodson. Those two guys are idolized in this town.

"To be in the same position as those guys is pretty incredible to me."

Johnson expects to build on some great relationships he's already established in Florence.

"I'm just going to love the kids as much as possible, and be there for them, in the classroom, on the football field, in the weight room, wherever they need me," he said. "By loving them so well, hopefully it attracts other kids to come play."

Oddly enough, Johnson will start his coaching career with a jamboree matchup with Pleasant Hill. The Billies also are in the same league as the Vikings, so there will be another big date later in the season.

"P-Hill is going to be really, really good," he said. "They have some great kids and a great coaching staff and a great administration overall there.

"I'm really, really fond of those kids. Probably the toughest decision in my 23 years was to leave there. But I did it with the blessing of the kids and the blessing of the coaches.

"They said, ‘You know this is your dream job and you need to go take it.' If it had been any other head coaching job, anywhere, I wouldn't have gone apply for it or thought about it.

"But there is something special about this town."


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